Fragments from early films, in poor condition, including possibly Life of an American Fireman; others produced by Pathe Freres.
April 21, 2014
The first 3 minutes and 10 seconds of this video are indeed the beginning of "Life of an American Fireman" (Edwin S. Porter, 1903).
The clip at 3:10 through 3:18 is a fragment from the beginning of Georges Méliès's 1902 film "L'Œuf du sorcier" (a.k.a. "Prolific Magical Egg" and "The Egg in Black Art," Star Film Catalogue #392–393). The fragment is short but valuable: the version of the film currently available on DVD and on the Internet Archive is missing this beginning sequence featuring Méliès's assistant. Note the black placard in the lower-right corner, which ought to show Méliès's Star Film trademark (as indeed it does in the other available version of the film). In this version the trademark has been painted out of the film frame by frame by a rival distributor, to disguise that the film had been stolen from Méliès.
The rest of the video, from 3:18 onward, is the beginning of Georges Méliès's 1906 film "A Mix-up in the Gallery" ("Une chute de cinq étages," Star Film Catalogue #789–790). This print is a mirror image of the original; even the title card "Taking Photos" at the beginning is flipped, though the typeface suggests it was added in the mid- to late-20th century. The rest of this Méliès film is available elsewhere in the 35mm Stock Footage collection, at the beginning of the video labelled "[Early Films 2]", with no mirror-image effect.
Many thanks to the 35mm Stock Footage collection for making these films available!